Administration Pans Republican FCC Reform Bill

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The Obama Administration came out officially Monday against the House Republican's Federal Communications Commission reform bill (H.R. 3309).

House Democrats also opposed the bill, which among many other things would require the FCC to justify regulations according to costs and benefits, survey the state of the marketplace periodically, and before initiating any new rulemakings, take other steps to make sure the public is getting bang for its regulatory buck, apply shot clocks to decisions, put a "narrowly tailored" restriction on all merger conditions.

Like those House Democrats, the Office of Management and Budget, part of the executive office of the President, said it opposed the bill "because it would limit the ability of the Federal Communications Commission to exercise its statutory duty to protect the public interest in its review of transactions affecting the vital communications industry."

The House Rules Committee Monday was setting rules for debate on the bill, which is scheduled to be brought to the House floor for debate and a vote Tuesday (March 27), according to the office of Majorioty Leader Eric Cantor.(R-Va.).

OMB said the bill would effectively create a separate Administrative Procedures Act for the FCC.

"H.R. 3309 would also limit the FCC's ability to impose conditions, or to accept commitments from transacting parties, as part of its review of transfers of licenses and other assets," said the White House. "These restrictions would harm the Federal Government's ability to promote the most effective competitive outcome in any given transaction involving communications firms. H.R. 3309 would limit the ability of the FCC and the Justice Department to work together on telecommunications matters to protect consumers, promote competition, and increase innovation to ensure access to more choices, lower rates and prices, and better products."

HR 3309 passed out of the House Energy & Commerce Committee earlier this month on a party line vote.

The cable, phone and broadcast industries all supported the House Republican FCC reform efforts. Those Republicans had argued that the bill was a way to apply President Obama's regulatory reform principles to independent agencies -- in this case the FCC -- that were not bound by his Executive Order on regulatory review.

House Democrats said HR 3309 will needlessly tie the FCC's hands and lead to endless litigation and have the potential to undo decades of court precedent under the Administrative Procedures Act, and could create uncertainty and confusion for the FCC and interested stakeholders going forward.

To the Republicans' argument about being in the spirit of the Obama deregulatory directive, the Office of Management and Budget said: "[T]he Administration is committed to ensuring that the decisions of all Federal agencies are open, transparent, well-founded, and protective of the public interest. H.R. 3309 does not further those goals."

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